Alternative Giving, December 1, 2017
The Joy of Alternative Giving
Rev. Yme Woensdregt
Last week, I wrote about National Housing Day and the crisis of homelessness which is gripping our country and our city. I ended the column with a promise to write about one small way in which we can help.
The last week of November each year presents countless ways for us to indulge our most selfish behaviours. It also gives us an opportunity to be as generous as we can be.
On Black Friday, we are encouraged to participate in an orgy of consumerism. Three days later, advertisers and retailers reinforce those selfish impulses by asking us to spend even more money on Cyber Monday. As if we don’t have enough stuff in our lives already.
Then, the very next day, different groups appealed to our better natures on Giving Tuesday. We were encouraged to be generous in our giving to others, and particularly to charities which need our help.
We are driven into an absurd rhythm during this time of year—from one extreme to another. Needless to say, I try not to participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but the wiles of the advertisers are powerful. Giving Tuesday is a cause much dearer to my heart.
Let me share with you another way to be generous to others. It’s called alternative giving. The heart of this is that people give a donation to a charity in someone’s name instead of giving that person a physical gift.
Why would you do that? In one episode of Seinfeld, George was angry to receive a donation to charity instead of an actual gift. He made up his own non–existent charity and handed out fake donations to other people so he could save money on gifts.
There are many reasons why someone would do this. For some, it’s a protest against the increasing commercialization of life. It’s a statement against our consumerist culture. We already have enough “stuff” and we don’t need more. Alternative giving allows the giver to recognize an occasion (whether it be Christmas, a birthday or an anniversary) and at the same time to do some good. Perhaps there is a cause or an organization dear to the receiver’s heart; that person might truly appreciate the giver’s thoughtfulness in supporting that effort. When someone makes an alternative gift, it’s really a double gift: a gift to the person being honoured and a gift to the charity and the people that really need the help.
We are becoming more and more faithful consumers. Yes, I know “faithfulness” is religious language. I use it deliberately. Someone has recently called consumerism the fastest growing religion in North America. There is some truth to that—witness Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Alternative Giving allows us to fight against the “sellabration of Christmas”. We can stop just exchanging things with others who already have too much stuff and give our money where it can have a real benefit.
This kind of generous giving is also good for us. Studies have shown that altruism has positive effects on our health. One of the best–known studies was conducted 40 years ago by psychiatrist George Vaillant. He observed the health of a group of Harvard graduates for 30 years. When they reached their fifties, he compared their health with the attitudes they lived by. His conclusion was that people who were generous and who truly cared for others enjoyed much greater mental health. (“Adaptation to Life”, 1977).
We’ve been doing this at Christ Church Anglican since 2006. It was initiated by the children of our Sunday School for a project to raise funds for goats in rural Rwanda.
This year, we are again sponsoring a project right here in Cranbrook. We are proud to partner with Homeless Outreach & Prevention, which is part of the Community Connections Society of Southeast BC.
Homeless Outreach & Prevention serves homeless people on the streets; people who are homeless due to a crisis; and those who are “couch surfing” or are considered at risk of homelessness because their housing costs are so high. They help young families and seniors who find themselves at risk because of an emergency or their income is no longer sufficient, or who have had a major life change, and affording a place to live has become a major challenge.
Homeless Outreach & Prevention provides short–term or one–time emergency assistance as needed. Just as importantly, they help people by referring them to agencies and services they may benefit from; they advocate for individuals around housing; they help people maximize their support systems.
Because we do it through Christ Church, I can guarantee that every penny which is donated will go directly to this project. There are absolutely no administration fees. Gifts in any amount will be gratefully received.
Generous people in Cranbrook and elsewhere have gotten involved in alternative giving projects in the past. This is a wonderful way for all of us to look beyond ourselves, and help those who are in greater need than we are.
If you would like to be part of this project, please contact Christ Church at (250) 426-2644 or email us at [email protected]. We will provide you with a gift card so you can let people know you’ve made a donation in their name. You will also receive a tax receipt for your charitable gift.
Winston Churchill famously remarked that “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
John Templeton echoed that when he said, “Happiness comes from giving, not getting. If we try hard to bring happiness to others, we cannot stop it from coming to us also. To get joy, we must give it, and to keep joy, we must scatter it.”